Against the Grain
Buckwheat, the grain of the moment, is not a grain at all
Buckwheat gnocchi at Namu Gaji
Quinoa had its moment.
But the grain du jour is buckwheat, which is actually not a grain at all, but a fruit seed botanically related to rhubarb.
Buckwheat flour is the defining ingredient in Breton-style crêpes and soba, in which its earthy flavor features prominently.
At State Bird Provisions, Nicole Krasinski uses the gluten-free flour in her golden profiteroles; lately, she has been making buckwheat, buttermilk and cacao-nib crackers ($4), which she pushes in a sweet direction, serving them with chocolate cream, or nudging them toward savory, topping the crackers with blue cheese.
Central Kitchen pastry chef Lisa Lu makes a lilting buckwheat ice cream, which occasionally appears on the restaurant’s tasting menu ($79) with fresh fruit. To create the ice cream, she toasts buckwheat groats--the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant--before steeping them in cream.
Dennis Lee makes Parisian-style gnocchi ($14) at Namu Gaji with a combination of double-zero pasta flour and buckwheat flour, mixing pulverized seaweed into the dough. He serves the tender pillows with peas, shavings of cured egg, and a smear of black-garlic purée.
State Bird Provisions, 1529 Fillmore St. (at Geary Blvd.), 415-795-1272 or statebirdsf.com; Central Kitchen, 3000 20th St. (at Florida St.), 415-826-7004 or centralkitchensf.com; Namu Gaji, 499 Dolores St. (at 18th St.), 415-431-6268 or namusf.com
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